Indev Brain, a small group consisting of a few experienced developers, has just released its first official title, Dead Effect. While Dead Effect's publisher, Bulkypix, has just about 100 titles under its belt, indev Brain has hit the ground running with the survival horror experience provided within Dead Effect. Dead Effect attempts to bring the vastly missed sense of horror and suspense to the actual survival horror genre. As stated before in my review of The Drowning, I absolutely despise turning a potentially great horror experience into a subpar action title. So is Dead Effect the next F.E.A.R. in terms of combining FPS and horror?
At first, Dead Effect started to walk the thin line between being an uninspired action game with horror forced into it and an overall scary title with action dictating your responses. It doesn't hold back the cheese as it incorporates some very large cliches from both the horror and FPS genres (waking up in a cyro-tube, the evil scientist, "why is he covered in blood, why is he eating people?", etc.). But what surprises us is that Dead Effect does this all quite efficiently through proper use of atmosphere, excellent graphics and solid controls. So what really went wrong aboard the ESS Meridian? Surprisingly, not much..
Without a doubt, Dead Effect is one of the greatest look iOS titles I have ever had the honor of reviewing. The zombies and environments you encounter are varied, lifelike and are on par with PlayStation 2 graphics, which is absolutely stellar for the iOS format. The levels of the Meridian reflect a derelict ship filled with a crew that has gone horribly wrong. As expected, the levels and filler objects become repetitive, but it's the atmosphere of Dead Effect that makes it truly shine.
The use of lightning, blood and space throughout the levels of the Meridian are reminiscent of the first time I ever started playing Dead Space and F.E.A.R. The first time I turned into an empty hallway with the lights flickering, I was reminded of the dreaded (and delightful) memories of when I first played as Isaac Clarke about the USG Ishimura. The gun effects, the UI, the character models and the overall aesthetics of most of my experiences with Dead Effect were great and made me forget I was playing from an iPad screen.
The controls of Dead Space are probably the best out of every single first-person-based title I have ever played on the iOS format. As expected, your left thumb moves your character and your right thumb is meant to aim. What surprised me was the addition of iron sights and a reload button right next to where your aiming finger would be placed. The resulting effect is that I had my hands firmly locked in place and was engaged without constantly having to reach for other things in the upper half of the screen (except to activate switches or to switch out weapons). My major complaint (and is one of the main things that kept Dead Effect from receiving an even higher score), are the touchscreen motions that are required when you are knocked down by a zombie. What indev Brain should have done was just make you wiggle your thumbs back and forth on the movement/aiming sides of the screen to keep you engaged with your hands planted the whole time.
While I have encountered a large number of iOS title that have cost money to buy but still push microtransactions and advertisements into your face, it was quite refreshing to see Dead Effect attempt to do no further beyond its initial price tag. Once it's bought, there are no premium additions that are waved in your face for a cost, no advertisements, nothing to deter from the actual gaming experience that I already purchased. I sincerely wish that other developers should selflessly follow this role; there have been too many iOS titles that have both an initial cost followed by premium in-game content for sale. This makes me respect a team that willfully tried to keep the "horror" part of survival horror much alive and do not encourage you to spend more money on their work.
Ultimately, I recommend Dead Effect to fans of the Left 4 Dead series and of zombie games in general. Don't expect any multiplayer, but the survival mode, the slow walkers, bosses and the fast-paced zombies will keep you on your toes as you wade through the dank depths of the Meridian. The iron sights are occasionally inaccurate, the shock gun was an annoyance, and recovering from a zombie attack is downright stupid, but everything else about Dead Effect screams excellence. The voice acting of Dead Effect is a purposely done joke (and a treat for B movie enthusiasts), but the sound effects are great and build upon the creepy atmosphere. I highly suggest playing this title with headphones for the full effect.
The five dollar price might scare some players away, but the six hour experience it provides (and more when factoring in survival mode), redeem its cost. When a horde of zombies start filling in the room and you start backtracking, the experience falters occasionally. But otherwise, Dead Effect is a shot to the brain, right where it counts the most.